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Monday, August 25, 2008
ESPN signs 15-year deal with SEC

Associated Press

The Southeastern Conference has signed a 15-year deal with ESPN reportedly worth more than $2 billion to televise sporting events, including football and men's and women's basketball.

The agreement announced Monday is the longest ESPN has ever signed and matches the length of the powerhouse league's deal with CBS earlier in August.

"This agreement makes the SEC the most widely distributed conference in the country," said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. He declined to disclose financial terms.

"The bottom line here is that fans of SEC football will have more access to games and better distribution than they ever have in the past," Slive added.

The deal begins with the 2009-10 season and ends the league's look into starting a network to carry its sporting events.

ESPN will have rights to every SEC home football game not on the network package and all league matchups will be shown on some outlet, including at least 20 a year on ESPN or ESPN2. That includes two primetime Thursday night matchups and Saturday night games.

"We're thrilled with the historic nature of this deal," ESPN executive vice president John Skipper said, adding that college sports have been "part of our DNA" for nearly 30 years. "It's not hard to figure why we'd want to be involved with it, given the quality of SEC sports, for 15 more years."

Alabama coach Nick Saban said the league's exposure nationally helps in recruiting and image.

"One of the reasons that this league has developed into one of the top leagues in the country is because we have tremendous exposure," Saban said. "I think we had the best exposure from a TV standpoint in our last contract and this one is only going to enhance it more."

The new deal will also add a second and third night of SEC basketball coverage on ESPN and ESPN2 each week. ABC will add two nationally televised regular-season hoops games and broadcast the SEC tournament semifinals and championship game.

ESPN's various outlets will carry more than 5,500 SEC events over the 15-year period, including league championships in women's basketball, baseball, softball and gymnastics.

The deal will end the SEC's affiliation with Raycom Sports, which has aired basketball since 1986 and SEC football since 1992.